25 Dec 2011

Prison church services limited

3:20 pm on 25 December 2011

Inmates at the country's largest women's prison will neither have visitors nor attend services because priority has been given to prison guards having the day off.

The Catholic chaplain at Wiri prison in Manukau, Mary Thorne, says because women of different security ratings cannot mix, organising about 10 services with fewer guards on Christmas Day would be impossible.

However she says the lead-up to Christmas is very much celebrated.

There are 300 prisoners at Wiri.

A chaplain at Auckland Prison in Paremoremo says each inmate there will receive a gift of a calendar, pen, stationery or confectionery, and prisoners' children also receive a church-donated gift.

Brother Colin Divane says because the prison population is divided into 15 different security ratings and they cannot mix, Christmas Day services will be limited.

Brother Colin says 30 different church groups offer their services once a month and those with music, dance and young people are extremely popular with the inmates. He says up to a third of inmates attend chapel regularly.